General Comments on Alternative Routes to Teacher and Administrator Certification

Two of the laws passed in January 2010 to gain competitive advantage for our state to win Race to the Top (RTTT) funding allowing for alternative teacher and administrator certification are being incorporated into the current proposed language to change Michigan’s certification codes.  I understand the rationale of the legislators passing these laws to obtain millions of federal dollars for our state, but do not think these laws and the suggested changes serve the best interests of the state or the stated intentions of the governor and legislators. We were not selected to receive the RTTT funding, therefore need for these laws for that purpose no longer exist.

The proposed administrative rules suggest that anyone who knows a subject should be allowed to be a teacher and any manager or leader with three years experience should be allowed to be a school administrator. One of the great things about our country is the opportunity for people to become what they aspire to be. However, not everyone gets to be what they want to be. In fact, most jobs have minimum entry requirements and the more demanding and responsible positions require higher standards. Over the decades we have established acceptable standards for people to become teachers and administrators in Michigan schools that have assured we have the quantity and quality of teachers we needed and desired. Now all of a sudden we are discarding these standards. For what reason?

There are many people who aspire to become teachers, but only those who meet the standards set by the state and the profession are allowed to teach. At my university, about half of those who wanted to become teachers were allowed to enter and complete the program. Of those certified in Michigan, less than half will get selected by Michigan schools to actually be teachers, and of those, only about half of them will still be teachers after five years. Not all candidates who wish to be teachers are allowed to enter or complete a teacher education program, nor do all allowed get hired to the job, and of that select group, not all are successful when they finally assume their full responsibilities.

This raises several questions.  Do we need more teachers for our local schools? Why would we open the doors so that less qualified people can become teachers? How do we then decide who can best educate and serve the needs of our children? Do we need an alternate route to allow more candidates for teaching when we are already producing more than twice the number of teachers than can be employed in Michigan? What alternative qualities will they bring that will improve our schools and students? What is broken in our current system that requires additional alternate routes? Why are teacher education programs called to raise their standards when the state is lowering them for others who do not have to go through our programs?

There currently exists an Alternative/Experimental Teacher Preparation Approaches where approved Michigan teacher preparation institutions may request waivers of some requirements for trying out research-based new approaches to prepare teachers. Several teacher preparation institutions (TPIs) in Michigan already have state-approved alternative approaches for candidates seeking teacher certification. These programs, along with the other routes to teacher certification, supply the needed quality and quantity of teachers in the state. In fact, these routes combined provide for more teachers than can be employed in the state. Like other young Michiganders seeking higher education in the state, they can pursue their chosen career wherever they can find employment. Why then allow for alternative route programs to produce more teachers and allow them to do so without meeting the standards other programs are held to by the state?

The addition of alternate providers throughout this proposed changes in the certification code is troubling for several reasons, including the alternate providers are not required to meet the same standards as the nationally accredited and state-approved TPI’s and therefore will lower the standards of education in our schools. Governor Snyder said: “I urge the State Superintendent and Department of Education to quickly allow teachers to enter the profession through alternative certification. They then would be held to the same rigorous performance standards and student proficiency requirements as any other teacher” (p. 11). In other words, as the proposed changes in the certification codes suggests, they will not be held to the same rigorous performance standards of teacher candidates before they enter the classroom or administrator’s office, but will be expected to meet them when placed there without preparation. Who will be responsible to monitor and determine that?

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About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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